Part Two 
"The First Spirit"

The cave grew cold again and Eban, the flinty old pachyrhinosaur, shivered as he endeavored to locate the owner of that insistent voice calling out to him.
"Eban," it said again. Eban looked around; his eyes finally lighted upon a massive figure. A brachiosaur of the most towering height and girth. No, thought Eban, this isn't Baylene, but a male. But that's impossible for Baylene is the last of her kind; there isn't another brachiosaur to be had. The great sauropod, despite it's enormous size, looked rather childlike and old, all the same. Its face and stature had the bloom of youth, yet the voice sounded rather aged.

"Who are you?", asked Eban.
"I am the Ghost of Nesting Grounds Past."
"Ah, so you are the first of the three Kron told me about...Hmm...Nesting Grounds Past, eh? Long past?"
"No, your past."

And with that, the Spirit beckoned Eban to the cave's exit that led to the Nesting Grounds. Eban was rather reluctant to do so as the Spirit spoke again. "Do you remember this place, Eban?"
The old ceratopsian became quite agitated and replied in a gruff voice, "Of course I know this place. It's the Nesting Grounds -- my home!"

The sauropod shook its head, replying gently, "No, Eban. Look harder."

No sooner had Eban spoke that he found himself entering the Grounds. Bright sunlight streamed through soft fluffy clouds; the grounds teemed with vivid green beauty. Eban looked about and exclaimed, "Is it morning already?"
Looking about again, he swore there were a few of the Herd's leading citizens missing. "Where is she?," he asked.
"Where's who?," inquired the Spirit. Eban blew out his sagging cheeks in exasperation and answered, "Baylene, the one who looks like you."

The Spirit shook its head again and said, "No, Eban. Baylene is not here. Neither are Aladar or Neera, or even the lemur clan...You didn't listen to me, Eban. Look harder."

Eban complied, carefully surveying the vast Ground. He recognized the lake, the forests, the meadows. But when his eyes took in the surrounding mountains....

 "The big blockage...the way we used to get in here. It's not there!"

Indeed the imposing rock wall that shielded the valley from the Fireball's destruction was not there. Then again, thought Eban, upon second glance, the Nesting Grounds did look different. Many trees were not as tall as he remembered. The lake seemed a bit smaller, too. At least the Herd looked the same, but there was still something not quite right. Eban watched as little dino children scampered about at play while a middle aged styracosaur called out to them. "Y'all watch where you're going!"

 The lady laughed long and hard as she turned to her mate, saying, "Those youngsters! It gives me so much pleasure to hear them playing and laughing..."
To which her mate laughingly replied, "Well, Eema, this is yet another generation to carry on. Only..."
His voice trailed off as he glanced in the direction of a lone child sitting under a tree. The little one seemed rather dejected and sad; all the children had left him behind. Eema's mate then said, "Too bad about that one, my dear. Poor little thing. It seems he's always left out..."
"Yes," replied Eema, "that is too bad, with him being an orphan and all."

Standing not too far from this conversation, Eban was thunderstruck. Is this Eema?

"Impossible, for Eema is so much older. And her mate? Why he died so many years ago," he said to the Spirit. To which the Spirit replied, "Eban, we are visiting scenes from your past. No one can hear or see us. Now, let us go to that boy sitting all by himself.


They neared a clump of trees where a lone baby pachyrhinosaur sat. Why was this child alone when it could be playing and romping with the other dinosaur youngsters? The Spirit asked, "Do you know this child, Eban?" 
Then it added, "Don't worry. No one can see or hear us."

Eban approached the child, peered into its little face, carefully examining the depths of its sad brown eyes. Eban gasped, "Why, it's me!"
"Yes, Eban. What do you know about this child?" 
"Oh, so many bitter memories to tell...My parents died young. My father was killed by raptors; my mother died of illness...I was so bitter, so angry at all those things that took my only family..."

He sat next to the baby Eban and noted the look of utter despair -- and anger -- in the child's face. The child muttered under his breath, "Who needs those kids, anyway. I'm perfectly fine to sit under my favorite tree. When I'm all grown up I'll show 'em! I'll be a very important dinosaur..."
The adult Eban chuckled, turned to the Spirit and said, "Heh, heh...That's the stuff that separates the grown-ups from the hatchlings. You see, I knew that the other children didn't play with me, because I was too good for them..."

The Spirit grew angry when it replied, "Eban, don't you get if? Why, this child is sad, lonely, desperate for affection and warmth...These things are still missing from your life."

Suddenly the entire valley seemed to fade then brighten again. Now the Spirit and Eban were standing near that same clump of tree, in that very spot. Only now the saplings were now decidedly taller, leafier. The dinosaurian children were now grown and nearly paired. Ah, the great circle of life continues as the recently mated couples await their first hatchlings. But where's the young Eban?
"I never had a mate," he said somewhat dejectedly to the Spirit. "Never had the time for it, but I did have fun as youth..." Indeed, when the pair focused attention on events by the lake, they saw several young parents at play with their children. Who's this at the water's edge? Could that be a grown-up Eban? And who's the attractive female giving him the eye? Eban watched his younger self react to the flirtatious antics of the female. His sighed as if his heart broke; he knew this lady.



"Eban, when are we going to be parents? You have not made the first move, and I'm not getting any younger! Why, all my friends, my sisters, are enjoying their new families. Eban, I can't wait forever!" 
"But Maribel, I'm simply not ready to settle down. It's only a matter of time, and we truly don't need to rush..." 
"Enough of your excuses, Eban!"

With that, the female ceratopsian stormed from his sight. Old Eban, his eyes slightly damp, said, "Spirit, why do you show me this? Maribel and I would've eventually settled down, but..."
Now the Spirit was angered as it replied in a nearly sarcastic tone, "But you were 'busy'. You thought more of your so-called high principles than your own happiness! I have to show you these things, Eban, for your own good."

The Spirit spoke again, in softened tones, "Do you remember what happened to Maribel?"

Old Eban, now struggling for something to say, finally admitted, "It's true. I dragged my feet, put off the love of my life with half promises. But what was I to do? I had no parents! No loving family from whom I could learn by example..." 
"But what happened to Maribel, Eban?"
Eban sighed and said, "It was not long after this scene. We were migrating back to the southern lands when Maribel died in the carnotaur's jaws. I mean, I thought if only I was closer to her, then he'd take me instead of her..."

The Spirit grew impatient as it lashed out, "No, Eban. You chose to travel up front with the Herd's leaders. You thought it would make you look like a big shot. Meanwhile, several Herd members -- including Maribel -- were stuck in the back. When the carnottaur attacked..." 

Eban nodded sadly. "I now realize what Aladar was talking about when he reminded us to 'Stand together'."


"Maribel had a long talk with Eema, and the old girl told her not to wait for me to make up my mind..."

Eban rattled on and on, oblivious to the fact that he was back in the comfort of the cave. The Spirit was long gone and Eban was still lost in a sad reminisce. 
"She told Maribel that I seemed to care more about making proper impressions than about our future happiness. So what did Maribel do? She determined that she'd find another mate once we returned the southern lands..."

Now Eban felt keenly aware that by putting off the love of his life he indirectly caused the end of Maribel. All that rumbled through his mind was an endless parade of "could've", "should've", and "would've".

"What's the use! She's gone and it's been so many years ago."

Eban turned as if to speak to the Spirit but it was gone. He finally realized that he was back in the cave; it was still night. Eban then spat angrily and said, "Humbug! It was all a dream...So I've lost the love of my life. Things like that happen all the time but how was I to know that she'd be a carnotaur's snack? Humph! I've lived a pretty good life and I need no one or nothing to gum it up!"

Suddenly the cave filled with a bright white light as if morning. A voice called out from deep within. "Same old Eban! That first Spirit didn't teach you a thing! Now, either listen to me or pay a dear price!"

The Second Spirit

CopyrightŠ2000 by "Sarama"

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